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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Italy Plays Host to Religious Leaders

ASSISI, Italy -- Leaders of the world's religions, from Christians to Muslims, from Buddhists to animists, meet here Thursday to blow against the winds of war and pledge never again to use God's name to justify violence.

Pope John Paul called the meeting in November, convinced that the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States and their aftermath showed that religious leaders had to renew their commitment to peace.

The pope hopes the meeting in the birthplace of St. Francis, the saint most associated with peace, will be particularly helpful to improve relations between Muslims and other religions.

"Never again violence. Never again war. Never again terrorism," says the commitment the 81-year-old pope will read in the name of Catholics on Thursday in Assisi, a town in Italy's central Umbria region.

"In the name of God, each religion should bring on earth justice and peace, forgiveness and life, love," it says.

Other leaders -- about 175 broken down into about a dozen religious umbrellas -- will read it in various languages.

Some Muslims and Hindus will read their commitment in Punjabi, a language understood in both India and Pakistan, which have come close to conflict.

The religious leaders will read their commitments in a huge white tent built just outside the Basilica of St. Francis, which was restored after a devastating earthquake in 1997.

The pope is the host but he wants everyone to feel equal in Assisi, so the tent is an attempt to provide a neutral praying ground.

After a morning session of peace appeals, the religious groups will then go off to designated sites in Assisi to pray by themselves. Christians will pray before the tomb of St. Francis.

The commitments not to use God's name for war will be made in the tent in the afternoon before the leaders return to Rome.

In another symbolic attempt to make all feel equal, the pope and most participants will arrive in Assisi by train from the Vatican and return the same way at the end of the day.

Because the Vatican's little-used train station has not been upgraded for electric track, a diesel locomotive will tug the convoy out, and when it crosses the "border" into Rome after some 150 meters, it will be replaced by an electric locomotive.

Representatives will come from a dozen Orthodox Churches, which have had thorny relations with the Vatican recently.

About a dozen will come from other Christian Churches, such as Anglicans, Baptists, Lutherans and Pentacostalists.

There will be some 30 Muslims. Jewish leaders will be coming from Israel, the United States, Europe and Latin America. There also will be Buddhists, Sikhs, Shintos, Jains, Zoroastrians and members of traditional African religions.

The Pope hosted a similar meeting in Assisi in 1986. During that session, nearly all parties in armed conflicts around the world adhered to his appeal and laid down their arms for 24 hours as a gesture of peace while the meeting was held.

The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Dalai Lama attended in 1986 but will not this time. George Carey, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has announced he will retire this year, and the Dalai Lama will be in the United States.